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Unapproved additives found in herbal tea

UNAPPROVED herbal additives have been found in a popular Cantonese-style herbal tea drink, an official with the country's Health Ministry confirmed yesterday.

Yan Weixing, vice director of the Institute for Nutrition and Food Safety of Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, affiliated with the Health Ministry, revealed this while answering questions from reporters, today's Beijing Times reported.

A victim in Hangzhou, capital city of Zhejiang Province, developed a gastric ulcer after long time consumption of the Wanglaoji herbal drink, it had been reported earlier.

Prunella vulgaris Linn, a herbal additive found in the tea, probably caused the disease, doctors told him.

The herb is not on the list of 87 medicinal substances which the health authority has approved as food additives.

"Some substances and raw materials in the tea drink are not on the list," Yan said.

But he pointed out there was no law regarding herbal additives in food.

The ministry is asking food manufacturers to reveal their recipes to help its research into additives. The ministry will later offer guidelines clarifying what substances can continue to be used as food additives, he said.

Wanglaoji's manufacturer, the Guangdong-based Duojiabao Group, declined to comment.

But according to industry insiders, the ministry has agreed to consider including Prunella vulgaris Linn on its herb additive list.

Zhang Junkie, a chairperson with Guangdong Food Industry Association, told The Beijing Times that Duojiabao had sent its drink recipe to the ministry in 2005 and asked it to include Prunella vulgaris Linn on its approved additive list. "The ministry had agreed to consider that," he said.

Zhang has been promoting the Cantonese-style herbal tea drink. Zhang is helping with an application to make the drink one of the country's intangible cultural heritages.

The drink is believed to be healthful because it is made from Chinese herbs that are said to be cooling or capable of removing internal heat from the human body.

Wanglaoji has witnessed a fast expansion in China's drink market. With manufacturing centers in Beijing, Zhejiang, Fujian and Guangdong provinces, the group sold 8 billion yuan (US$1.17 billion) worth of the Wanglaoji drink last year.


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